No one so beautifully interprets heartache as Sonya Cotton. Her new album, When I Go Home, continues where her exquisite previous album, It is so, left off. Sonya’s lovely, otherworldly lilt narrates the loss of loved ones and nature over melancholy, multi-instrumental folk melodies in the classic, masterful way of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez.
By the banks of the Yuba river
I received the dreaded call
that began the slow unwinding
of the life that I had known
From the mystery comes beauty
from the mystery comes strife
every moment at the mercy
of a force we cannot describe
The standout track is “Bloodroot.” Sonya says: “‘Bloodroot,’ in addition to being about a polar bear, is also about my mother’s losing fight with cancer. (As you may know, bloodroot is a plant that some claim can be used to pull tumors out of the body. Others believe there is no scientific/medical merit to this.) Though my mom never used Bloodroot, for me it was a symbol of the last strand of hope or last ditch effort in her battle with this illness.”
That kind of metaphorical depth is a trademark of Sonya’s lyrics, particularly on this album and its predecessor. Every Sonya Cotton song is like a rich, poetic book.
Other highlights are “Yuba,” “Time Shows No Care,” “Don’t Want to Say Goodbye,” and “My Heart Lives,” but the entire album is truly, extraordinarily beautiful.
Sonya was kind enough to grant Muruch an exclusive mp3 download of “Bloodroot”. If you like what you hear, please support this talented independent artist by purchasing the full album at Bandcamp.
The sublime Sonya Cotton just released a new, four-track EP called More Of You. The EP is comprised of covers of four classic jazz standards. I love Sonya’s voice and I love classic jazz, so it’s no surprise I love this EP. I especially like the romantic opener, “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” which fits Sonya’s lovely voice like an elegant glove. Originally recorded for eight generous donators to Sonya’s magnificent It Is So album (my #1 of 2011), the More Of You EP is now available for all of us to enjoy and purchase via Bandcamp…
This year’s top album list pretty much assembled itself throughout the year. The top 4 in particular are albums I expect to continue to listening to over and over for years to come. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, download mp3s…
“…combine catchy electro-pop with airy dream-pop….What sets The Good Natured’s songs apart is the occasional splash of exotic strings or thunderous, syncopated beats. I’m enjoying this album immensely.“
“…churns the all-female vocal ensemble’s signature Gothic choir sound with even more exotic instrumentation, faster tempos and fiercer wails….brimming with dark drama, intoxicating rhythms and haunting choral harmonies“
“…From the opening blast of harmonica through the finale, The Decemberists have woven layers of delicate instrumentation and poetic lyrics into even the most buoyant and infectious song on this album.“
“…truly a delight…airy pop-folk songs…”Appalachian Hills” is the album’s biggest stunner. The haunting folk ballad explores the beautiful landscape and horrific racism in the Shenandoah valley during and after the Civil War.“
“…marries the electro-pop of his recent releases with the eccentric troubadour style of his early albums, then takes things a step beyond with classical strings, big brass and a newfound lyrical optimism.“
“…Lead singer Genevieve Schatz’ voice is distinctively strong and pretty, and the band’s pop-rock songs are far more catchy and lyrically substantial than anything on the radio…one of those albums I like more with each listen.“
“…The poor kid must be sick of the comparisons, but what else can I say here? This little gem of an album sounds like Edith Piaf singing modern, slightly quirky, jazz and pop tunes. I adore it…There really are no weak tracks on the album, the intricacies and charm of the arrangments are a perfect match for Zaz’ superb and distinctive voice.“
“…grand in scope and beautifully complex, yet one of the most irresistibly accessible collections I’ve ever heard. This magnificent new song cycle finds Sarah taking pop, folk, rock and classical to places they’ve never been before.“
“…more of a American rock musical sound than the seminal Celtic punk band’s previous efforts…a lyrically brilliant and sonically solid effort inspired by the U.S. economic collapse – particularly its harsh effect on Detroit’s factory workers.“
“…gives these brilliant musicians some new opportunities to show off their substantial skills…”You Been Lyin’” is the best, most exciting collaboration any album ever had. The quaking duet with “Dallas gospel funk band” The Relatives sounds like The Staples Singers and George Clinton jamming with The Darkness.“
“…previously unreleased material by the late, great Eva Cassidy…composed entirely of acoustic versions of Eva’s best known recordings. Accompanied only by the soft strum of her guitar, Eva’s extraordinary voice is beautifully displayed in this exquisite collection.“
“…One of the more impressive releases of 2011 so far, Night of the Hunters was an ambitious undertaking for Tori Amos and one that, despite its weaknesses, can be called a success. It’s also a definite step in the right direction for the songstress and has won my loyalty back after a decade of disillusionment.“
“…Sin Palabras has all of the strengths of Night Of Hunters, yet none of the weaknesses…gorgeous instrumental version illuminates all of the intricacies and nuances of the arrangements. The brilliance of Tori’s piano playing, as well as that of her accompanying orchestra musicians, is put on full display.“
“…Heather’s unusually gorgeous voice has always been the driving force in her songs, but her intricate layering of high energy pop-rock instrumentation with haunting folk melodies continues to put her music into a category of its own.“
“…a brassed up brand of eerie indie-rock, melodic pop, delicate folk and the lightest hint of Zydeco…From her first wail in the mesmeric, churning, chill-producing opener, “Leila and the Orange Moon,” I knew I would love this album.“
“…a delightful nod to vintage Western swing, honky tonk and classic Nashville country…the whole album is a toe tappin’, hip shakin’ wonder. I expect it to be on my best of the year list come December.“
“…I don’t recall ever having been so profoundly moved by an album. The lyrics read like classic poetry, full of beautiful, nature-evoking imagery and immense sorrow…Sonya’s broken heart is deeply embedded in the marrow of this spectacular album, as her personal loss intertwines with metaphors depicting the loss of natural habitat and sanctuary for animals in the wild. Such personal and universal themes coupled with lush, intricate arrangements must surely destine It is so to become a folk classic.“
Set for release August 30th, Sonya Cotton’s third album, It is so, came to me unexpectedly in a handwritten, pastel green envelope and I don’t recall ever having been so profoundly moved by an album. The lyrics read like classic poetry, full of beautiful, nature-evoking imagery and immense sorrow. The album’s dedication revealed that this gorgeous, mournful masterpiece was born of the back-to-back deaths of Sonya’s mother and a close friend. Sonya’s broken heart is deeply embedded in the marrow of this spectacular album, as her personal loss intertwines with metaphors depicting the loss of natural habitat and sanctuary for animals in the wild. Such personal and universal themes coupled with lush, intricate arrangements must surely destine It is so to become a folk classic.
Remember and do pray for me, who’s lost a precious friend
Your pleasures here can’t always be, your joys must have an end
My dear companions snatched away, and I’m near left alone
In grief and sorrow here I’ll stay, and like a dove I’ll moan
“Man in a Tree with a Gun,” which incorporates the traditional Appalachian folk song “Remember and Do Pray For Me,” opens the album with a quiet, dirge-like verse then explodes into a chill-producing choir of voices – all driven by the deep, steady beat of a solitary drum.
“Frozen Hands,” which originally appeared on Out of the Ocean, is a gentle, lovely ballad that puts Sonya’s voice on almost perfect display.
The haunting, grief-stricken “Washington” and “It Wasn’t Long Ago” seem most directly and intensely inspired by her mother’s life and passing.
The anguished but exquisite “Regrets” is the song that will wring the tears from your eyes if you have ever lost someone you loved dearly but took for granted.
“Song For Eric” is a tribute to Sonya’s friend, Eric Bayer, who was diagnosed with cancer just two months after her mother died from the same disease. Eric himself died just four months later at the young age of thirty-four. The song, which references Mary Oliver’s poem “In Blackwater Woods,” is an ethereal folk ballad worthy of Joni Mitchell.
Sonya’s voice has never sounded so beautiful and her songwriting has never been as brilliant. Yet what a price she paid for such glory.
Sonya Cotton – Man in a Tree with a Gun (mp3 expired)*
*mp3 provided by & posted w/ permission of artist
*widget uploaded to Bandcamp by artist
It is so will be made available for donation rather than sale on August 30th with half of the proceeds benefitting The American Bird Conservancy, a non-profit animal welfare organization her mother once worked for.
Sonya Cotton’s music has an acoustic folk sound akin to Dar Williams or the softer side of Lizzie West. Out Of The Ocean was recorded in a Connecticut cabin by lake, which seems a fitting setting for this pristine set. Sonya’s voice is pretty and subtle, much like her poetic lyrics and melodies.
Where comes the line between giving up and trying when your open owl face is oceans away? You’re oceans away. Where has my vessel gone? They’ve stolen it for a boat, and my gray walls have flooded now.
It’s difficult to pick out particular tracks on Out Of The Ocean, as the songs don’t have distinguishing qualities so much as they flow together to create an evenly tranquil mood. The lovely “Open Owl Face” is probably my favourite, with “Baby Isabella”, “Tumbleweeds”, and “Frozen Hands” close behind.